The shortage of pharmacists nationally, fueled by the increased demand for pharmacists due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was a topic that we discussed on our blog posts all the way back in March of 2020 and then again in early April. Now with the nationally accepted recognition that the pharmacy profession has received as “frontline essential workers” during the pandemic, plus the new expansion of a pharmacist’s responsibilities and job duties, the current demand for pharmacists is almost staggering. With the independently owned retail pharmacies becoming so very important as a part of every community, let’s discuss how the shortage of pharmacists and technicians affects them in particular.
Are Independent Pharmacies Hardest Hit By The Shortage of Pharmacists?
In our previous blog post discussing employee turnover and retention of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in all types of pharmacy settings, we looked at the economic impact and other consequences of turnover in general, plus offered some tips and insights into employee retention versus replacement of valuable “lost” personnel.
Now let’s look more closely at perhaps the hardest hit area of the pharmacy community – the Independent Community Retail Pharmacy. Everyone still remembers how inconvenient the shortages of necessary commodities such as toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer were at the beginning of the pandemic, but a shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy workers is currently still having disastrous effects on our national healthcare system.
Retail community pharmacists and their pharmacy co-workers have all been working long extended hours under unbelievable stressful conditions and, as everyone knows, they are the most accessible health care workers available to the general public. In most cities, towns and communities across the nation, the pharmacist is the most easily accessible healthcare provider and usually acts as the first “touchpoint” for a patient engaging with the US healthcare system. In fact, over ninety percent of all Americans reportedly live within five miles of a retail community pharmacy. This is especially true in many rural areas of our nation and in communities that additionally experience shortages of doctors and physicians. In those areas in particular, a pharmacist may be the only healthcare provider that is immediately within reach of many patients and their family members. Not only providing medications, prescriptions and medical supplies, pharmacists are being called on to be a source of the latest critical information and to be a support for the general public at large across the country.
Then came the call for pharmacists to both prescribe and administer vaccines and immunizations to heir patients that entirely changed the way a typical community retail drugstore operated. Pharmacists had to quickly adjust to accommodate the impact, as well as their much needed technicians. This led to what’s been termed “Pharmacist Burnout”, and also applies to the pharmacy technicians. Many could simply not deal with the change (or quickly got ill themselves), which resulted in so much stress that a significant number switched to hospital or clinical positions, or simply left the profession they were educated in and had practiced for their entire professional lives. According to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA)’s 2021 economic health report this “exodus” from independent retail community pharmacies resulted in:
• Over two-thirds (68%) of all independent community pharmacies nationwide reported having a difficult time filling open pharmacist positions.
• A staggering 88% of independent pharmacies reported that pharmacy technicians are the most difficult positions to fill.
These staffing shortages that had never before been seen in by independent pharmacy owners have resulted in:
1. Reduced operating hours of community pharmacies (keeping in mind that a Registered Pharmacist must be physically present for a pharmacy to be open to both fill and dispense prescription medications).
2. Reduced revenue for the independent community pharmacies (with numerous patients leaving and opting for the convenience of mail-order prescription refills). The survey also revealed that over 41% of independent community pharmacy owners stated that the current overall financial health of their business is somewhat poor or very poor.
3. Increased incentive pay to pharmacy staff that obviously also results in decreased profitability. One must keep in mind that the rising costs cannot just be passed on to the patients because many of the reimbursements and fees are controlled by PBMs.
4. Greatly increased prescription dispensing waiting times for patients.
5. The turning away of patients seeking immunizations.
Tips For Independent Pharmacy Owners To Increase Pharmacist Retention
So how does the independent community pharmacy owner deal with this pharmacist shortage, increase R. Ph. & staff retention, plus remain profitable enough stay open during this critical time?
As we previously discussed in our previous post, certain retention strategies pertain to all areas and types of pharmacies:
– Increased communication with pharmacy staff
– Empowerment of employees to make decisions
– Offering a health benefits program, like a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA)
– Recognition of individual achievements
Yet for the independent pharmacy owner there’s perhaps a more critical area to focus on than the usual raising of wages, offering more flexible work hours, and increasing benefits to attract new workers and increase employee retention:
Establishing an alliance and a relationship with an established and reputable Pharmacy Staffing Agency!
Contact a Pharmacy Staffing Firm NOW and be Prepared
Although increasing compensation, allowing flexible scheduling, plus offering new benefits such as tuition reimbursement and/or childcare allowances are all excellent retention strategies, perhaps the best way to deal with pharmacist burnout and employee turnover is to institute a working relationship with a proven and established national pharmacy staffing agency! The right staffing firm can provide experienced temporary “fill-in” pharmacists and technicians to help reduce workloads, stress, plus provide immediate much needed relief to overworked pharmacists and leads to a reduced occurrence of burnout among your workers. The right pharmacy staffing agency can also assist in you by providing qualified permanent full-time placement and can help find new team additions that fit your specific needs. The right staffing firm can also offer an independent pharmacy owner “temp-to-perm” options. In the long term, the owners themselves can relax and focus once again on what’s essential in making their independent pharmacy operation more profitable!
Choosing the pharmacy staffing firm that best suits your potential requirements and needs is essential. Choose a firm that’s not too small as to be geographically constrained and has a limited number of available pharmacists that meet your business’s needs. If you own or run a “smaller” pharmacy operation, it’s important that the staffing agency you partner with is not too large itself and, therefore, is service oriented when dealing with a “smaller” client’s immediate needs like yours.
The perfect choice is HCC (Healthcare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing & Consulting)! Our pharmacist staffing service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. HCC maintains one of the largest active pools of relief and temporary pharmacists in the nation, allowing us to quickly locate available, qualified and reliable pharmacists during any emergency situations that may arise. Our proprietary online system allows HCC to match your needs with the most qualified available candidates to work temporary relief during emergency times as these. HCC also ensures that our emergency pharmacists comply with all HIPAA requirements and also have and maintain professional liability insurance.
Please also note that HCC can also help fill all of your staffing needs regarding pharmacy technicians. HCC has been the leading provider of qualified, registered, licensed and professional pharmacy technicians (CPhTs) in Florida since 1989. As with pharmacists, satisfaction with our pharmacy technician staffing is guaranteed!
We strongly urge you to be proactive regarding establishing a relation with us now (this way all required paperwork is completed before an emergency situation actually occurs or, as is the case of the coronavirus we presently face, escalates). Then, when you do actually require an a relief pharmacist, HCC will be ready to meet your needs so that you can relax and rest easy. Call us now at (800) 642-1652 or take a moment and Contact Us Online and an HCC in-house staffing consultant will contact you as soon as possible to discuss all of your staffing needs.
About HCC Pharmacy Staffing & Consulting
With over three decades of experience in pharmacy staffing and pharmacy consulting, HCC has helped hundreds of pharmacies with employee turnover and retention problems. As one of the nation’s premiere pharmacy recruitment and placement agencies, HCC can also help you find you the best candidates available to fill your job openings. HCC has been a national leader since 1989 in regards to staffing, recruitment, permanent placement and direct hire. With HCC as your partner, you can rest assured that employee turnover and retention are one less area that you need to focus your limited and precious time on. So you can relax and concentrate on the profitability and growth of your pharmacy operation.
Contact us on line or call us today at 800-642-1652 for a Free Consultation to find out how we can help you too.